Web Design Resources

Web design doesn’t have to be from scratch – here’s a collection of resources to jump-start your online projects.

Web design really is a form of architecture. From conception to the grand ribbon cutting, the concepts at work are pretty much the same – start with a solid foundation, know what materials are going to be the most effective for you plan, and decorate to taste. The same goes for your construction method – if you want to build a skyscraper from scratch, you’re not going to start by going to a forest with an ax to get some building materials. In web design, this is like starting a project with a blank HTML document or PSD. For smaller projects this works, but if you’re building the Chrysler building of web sites, you’re going to want to start with some pre-constructed materials to make your life a little easier. From code libraries to free vectors, below are some of the best resources for designers looking to keep their development process as streamlined as possible.

1. jQuery, Prototype, or similar JS libraries
If you’ve seen it done in Javascript, it’s probably an open source download somewhere. Sure, for really complex and unique JS you may need to get your hands dirty and write your own code, but for basics like lightbox, dynamic forms, and animations, libraries like jQuery can speed your development time exponentially. Don’t waste your time writing from scratch something that someone else has spent years perfecting.

2. Vecteezy, Vector Finder, and other vector sites
Much like with Javascript, creating your own vector art is something you should be able to do when push comes to shove – most schools have extensive courses in this subject matter. However, when your client needs a Christmas card design in half an hour so it can make the last post before the holiday, you’re not going to want to spend forty of those minutes pen-tooling a wreath. Sites like Vecteezy.com, VectorFinder.com, and even iStock offer free or royalty free vector art for you to download and use, so you can spend more time on unique tasks, like photoshopping that Santa hat onto your boss’s dog.

3. Smashing Magazine
Smashing Magazine is to web designers what The Wall Street Journal is to stock brokers – it informs, inspires, and keeps you tuned into the most relevant aspects of our industry. It’s probably the closest you’ll get to schools and courses after you graduate too. Follow Smashing, and you’ll be bombarded with more tutorials, resources, and all around good advice than you can digest in a day.

4. Net.TutsPlus.com
It’s hard for me to even grab the URL for this site without opening a dozen tabs and wanting to spend the entire day there. Even after getting degrees, time and time again web designers visit this collection of some of the most relevant and in depth tutorials on the net. A quick tour of it will introduce you to new ideas and implementations of technology you already know, plus a dozen or so things you didn’t.

5. Dafont
Perfect for the type perfectionist in all of us, Dafont offers hundreds of fonts for free, as well as hundreds more at shareware prices, all from different schools of designers and artists. Font families can be rather expensive, so having an alternative supported by a great, type-loving community is the perfect way to get quality typefaces into your projects.

And this is just the beginning – a simple Google search will reveal thousands of potential resources for web design online. Always remember that if it’s something you’ve seen done often, it’s probably available for you out there somewhere. Think like an architect, and before you know it, you’ll have built a few Chrysler buildings all on your own.